Thursday, December 09, 2021

Estremera: Childhood memories

Spiders Web

WE WERE kids of the farmlands. The family moved to its own house in Lower Rapnaga the year before I entered kindergarten after occupying apartments in Juna Subdivision of which I only remember the Robillo Apartments in Juna Avenue because I wasn’t born yet in that other apartment with the Moradas.

Apo Golf and Country Club was our new neighborhood. It was surrounded by tracts of farmlands owned by one Don Joaquin. I only knew of him through the stories of my playmates – the tenants’ children.

Across the highway was a Steam Laundry, an industrial size laundry service that catered to the city’s hotels. Nene, the eldest sister of my best friend Abet worked there. The steam laundry is now the corner of Gulfview Subdivision. We walked that Gulfview road going to Baybay to meet up with yet another barkada – Adonis. Unlike Abet whose family served as tenants of Don Joaquin, Adonis was the son of a fisherman. I had both land and sea as my playground.

At the corner of Apo Golf was the Pineda house. To my memory, it was a huge house. But who knows? Everything was HUGE when you were young. I remember the birthday parties we were invited to in that house and how we’d roll down the sloping front yard. I always associated the Pinedas with the aroma of spaghetti and hotdogs. Maybe because we’d only be there when there’s a birthday party. They left when I was in third grade and the house was left uninhabited until it was demolished sometime in the 1980s. For an unknown reason, I remember feeling sad for the youngest girl whom I remember as Carol...

Next door to us were the Bernardos. My best friend in kinder was Catherine. When they moved out, the house was renovated and Riveras moved in. The new house had an underground bedroom, and in those days, having a bedroom underground was chic. A mark of Alta Sociedad. At least, that’s what I believed.

The Rivera was an older family, so I never really got to know their brood if ever they had any. Then came the Vega family made up of seven sons, two of whom were around my age – Allen who was a year younger and their youngest Audie, who was two years younger. I was already in third or fourth grade by then and was living the life of the native.

My barkada Abet and I introduced the boys to the native’s life... like heading to Apo Golf’s water traps to harvest lotus seeds or squelch mud for lost golf balls that’s we’d break open to get into the rubber ball inside.

It was decades later in a chance encounter with Allen when he recalled how mortified he was when we were knee-deep in a water trap squelching mud when he saw his classmate, a young golf champ surnamed Lopez, walking by. He hid amid the wide lotus leaves, he said. I was oblivious to this because even when I spent my grade school years in Ateneo, this was the life I was introduced to before I even entered school. Thus, I didn’t find any reason to be ashamed of what we were doing.

This was one of those bits and pieces of lessons I picked up on the way to growing up: The societal divide and how children really do not care until their elders introduce the concept to them. My parents never did and so my childhood was pocked full of adventures and misadventures.


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